Friday, July 25, 2014

The Royal College of Physicians Garden

My alter ego, you know the sort that pays bills, as a clinician has seen myself attending numerous conferences and symposiums hosted at the function halls of the Royal College of Physicians. And every time I attend these gatherings I look forward to seeing their courtyard garden which has a good selection of exotic plants, most of which grow outside permanently, owing to the shelter provided by the walls of the building, as well as by the 'urban heat island' micro climate in Central London. 


With such a favourable micro climate in the city there are so many plants you can grow there that will not do so even if it's planted just outside of it, the periphery of the inner city and beyond. A walk in the city, it's not unheard of to come across large Phoenix canariensis, Butia capitata, Araucaria heterophylla happily growing outside. I've even come across  before Ficus elastica, Schefflera arboricola, Crassula ovata, and so many more traditional houseplants growing as outdoor potted plants on various parts within the core of the city. That's how extra warm in the winter and sheltered it is there.




So it's no surprise that some of the plants growing in the courtyard are plants that I wouldn't even attempt to plant out in our garden. But what actually surprises me is, why are those plants growing there? Who has decided to put them there and where did they come from? Some of the plants are not run of the mill ones, with a good chunk of them on the rare side and require some specialist knowledge to take care of them. Questions that I'll take the time to find out the answers to later on (I found some of the answers here). Fascinating!



Funny enough though, despite being there a number of times before I never had the chance to take photos of the garden, always forgetting my camera (you go into work mode on such occasions, where a camera on hand is not necessary). Also, working only five minutes away from it I took it for granted and kept postponing taking photos. But today was the day and with camera tucked in my bag first thing in the morning as I left for work, I popped round on my way back home and finally took those photos.





Btw, if ever you find yourself attending an event there, check out the botanical art in the toilets too. Fine plant art to see as you pee...

Okay, out of the toilet, and into the courtyard we go...



This is the first area you get in to if you enter the garden via the steps from the basement. It is also possible to access the gardens via the car park outside of the building, although you'll have to get a visitor's pass first from reception. 



This area has quite a number of different cycads on display, all of which are rare. From time to time they change the way they display them, and even remember one February day I saw them displayed on the ledge to the right of the photo, all out and no extra winter protection.



A selection of potted exotic plants including a Brugmansia suaveolens on the square pot, Zantedeschia aethiopica on the zinc pot to the right, and Encephalartos natalensis at the back.



Dracaena draco at the center of the alcove with Eryhtrina crista-galli to the right



A selection of various exoticas...



A nice place to sit if you want a breath of fresh air in between talks and presentations.


I'm almost surprised they even bothered to have something as common as Cycas revoluta in their collection ;)



But lots of little unusual ones at the base of it.




A bit of garden ornamentation just to complete the mix.



Musa basjoo as focal point for one of the beds.



And along the same bed you'll find this handsome and glossy leafed Cussonia spicata...



And a stunning and very blue Cussonia paniculata, with Buddleja salvifolia to the left. To the right is a glimpse of a Sparmannia africana.



Dianella tasmanica looking great, not so much for the foliage but for the...



Electric blue berries!



Melianthus major with Gloriosa superba growing and flowering on top of it.



Follow the pathway surrounding the lawn in the middle and you'll spot this corner with a Restio as a focal point, underplanted with a small patch of Eucomis



Beschorneria yuccoides flowering away



Eryngium, Aloe, Euphorbia...



Even an Opuntia...spot of Danger Garden?



Just to complete the dangerous mix, a Yucca rostrata!



These were quite sweet to see, contrasting with the regency building it is leaning to but I also instantly imagined the head gardener pottering in there at various times when she's around.


Encephalartos senticosus



Whooa, what's that??



Cyathea medullaris, cool!!



Mahonia gracilipes underplanted with Athyrium niponicum var. pictum



Albizia julibrissin providing some canopy (or it could be a Paraserianthes lophantha?)



Livistona chinensis



Mahonia fortunei



I suppose you can say this bed is the jungle garden. Fargesia bamboos at the back of the two Dicksonia antarctica



An absolute essential to a jungle garden - Tetrapanax papyrifera



Well why not...Trachycarpus fortunei




Photos can't do justice as to how striking this was in person...glimmering silver blue leaves...



Buddleja glomerata



Lobelia tupa



Aloe striatula, the photo of which strangely loaded upside down (quirky enough that I'll keep it as it is)



Didn't I hear someone saying before that there's always an Agave somewhere if you look hard enough? Agave parryi

If you ever find yourself in the area where this institution is, it's well worth the detour to check out the garden, especially if you enjoy exotic plants. And if you do find yourself attending one of the symposiums they host (they don't just host medical type of events but various things too, like last April a symposium on exotic gardening was held here with Dan Hinkley as one of the speakers) try to wiggle out from the crowd during the break and spend some time in their grounds.

Oh, and don't forget the loo...

Mark :-)

28 comments:

  1. The presence of an actual gardener is evident right off and not at all like the usual public landscape. Add in a thoughtful concept to have a medicinal garden at the college and you have a special place to visit.

    So many plants to enjoy, especially those blue berries, the silvery foliage, and there's always an agave of course.

    Thanks for sharing it with us.

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    1. It's a great idea to have a medicinal garden on site Shirley, especially with the namesake of the institution.

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  2. I was impressed by the diversity of plants and the fact that so many were in pots (with labels!) - I wondered who kept them watered but then I remembered that you actually get rain in London. It's not common here to see anything but the most perfunctory plantings around public buildings here, although I do recall that UCLA has a small but very nice botanic garden near the old emergency room medical facility.

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    1. I was impresses by their little collection of plants Kris, and even more so with their labelling.

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  3. Thank you for a virtual revisit to that garden and reminder how interesting and diverse it is. We visited during the Open Squares Weekend a few years back and had a guided tour by a very knowledgeable gentleman (I think his name was Henry) who explained the significance of the plants - everyone has medical uses or is there to represent something. We had such an entertaining time - I wonder if Henry still does the tours?

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    1. Cool, I better check it out if he still does Celia :)

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  4. I had no idea that this amazing space was there - and in an area I know well! Well that's another of the Regents Park area's secrets out in the open (although I'm probably the last to know, as usual). Amazing plants, what a treat to be able to wander round in your conference breaks - and so helpful that the plants are labelled. Has your wish list for your garden now increased, just a tiny bit? I love that Dianella, wowser berries, I want one and see from the RHS that they're pretty easy to get hold of. Hmmm, tempting… ! Enjoy your weekend, hopefully a good one for gardening!

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    1. It did increase a little bit Caro, I want a Cyathea medullaris now :) have to confess I haven't explored regents park properly yet, and to think I work in that area...

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  5. Definitely glad you took your camera with you. What an amazing area, obviously lovingly tended by someone knowledgeable. So many great plants, and must make those hurried breaks snatched in the middle of a conference, symposium or suchlike all the more pleasant. Thank you for the glimpse at an almost-secret world, and for the hint at your other life!

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    1. I remember how surprised I was when I first saw their collection years ago, most of the plants being obscure and all. A little hidden gem indeed Janet

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  6. That is really impressive. A lot of money to set up that whole thing and they must have full time gardeners just for the plants. Well worth visiting many times.
    Cher

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    1. It's only a small site Cher but I can imagine the gardeners visiting every so often and spending the entire day there.

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  7. What a wonderful city oasis!
    I've tried growing restios but they don't work for me, even down here. But you have solved a mystery, I saw Dianella tasmanica growing in a South Devon garden last year and wondered what it was.

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    1. It is Jessica :) I'm surprised Restios don't do well there but I hope you have better luck with the Dianella, a plant that doesn't do well in our garden.

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  8. I use to like to visit this garden when i lived in London! I appreciate it even more now that i have become found of exotic and unusual plants! Thank you for the tour : )

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  9. Very impressive, and quite the microclimate created by all those warm, reflective surfaces. I'm sure the head gardener would be proud to have it appreciated by one who understands and can even identify the wide range of unusual plants...and then shares it with the world.

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    1. That's a lovely thought Ricki, thank you :)

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  10. What a fabulous planting area which looks as if it is lovingly tended and how great for you to be able to combine work with pleasure.

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    1. A rarity it is Anna, combining work with pleasure :)

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  11. Thanks for this tour, lots of really great plants! Such a huge variety. And again I'm wondering: WHY DON'T I HAVE A YUCCA ROSTRATA YET? Ahh! If only they were for sale anywhere. I'm going to have to work on that one.

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    1. I wonder if you can at least get hold of seedlings, or at least seeds there Amy? Planted on the ground they size up relatively quick and likely to do well in your location :)

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  12. We visited the garden at the Royal College when it was open on the occasion of London Squares gardens last year and agree it has some fantastic plants, many tender elsewhere in the much of the UK.
    Your pictures of Agave parryi reminds me of our lovely holiday last year in Madeira where it was even more magnificent!
    Is Aloe striatula the aloe that is most hardy in the UK? It looks like the one I had for years outside in York before the 2010 Winter but I know there is a very similar one that only stands the odd degree of frost

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    1. Hi Roger, glad to hear you have visited this garden before. We love Madeira and is a garden dear to us :) Yes, Aloe striatula is one of the hardier ones for planting out in the UK, more likely it was the one you had. The name of the look alike escapes me at the moment but yes it is tender and funny enough we got it before from Madeira too.

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  13. I've been planning to post about this garden from a public planting perspective since I accidentally discovered it on the way to Regent's Park in March. I think it's fab and I only saw the outside bits! There are garden tours during the week sometime, possibly Wednesdays - my brain can't quite remember which day though :(

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    1. It's a relatively small garden Michelle but certainly does pack a punch! One evening this week I'll try to pop round again and enquire about the guided tour, very interested to hear what the guide will say about the garden.

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  14. I'm bummed that you didn't take your camera into the loo and I was about to be disappointed that the danger stopped with an opuntia, thank goodness you spotted the agave!

    What a wonderful place.

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    1. It's a gem of place Loree, especially in the midst of a lot of formality. I was tempted to take photos in the loo but there were attendants and I can just imagine their expression if I did start taking snaps. Funny :))

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